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Contractor In NJ Explosion Fined $112K Over Past Year For Safety Violations

Crews on the scene of an explosion at a town house complex in Ewing, NJ on March 4, 2014. (credit: CBS 2)

Crews on the scene of an explosion at a town house complex in Ewing, NJ on March 4, 2014. (credit: CBS 2)

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EWING, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The engineering company working at the time of a deadly explosion at a New Jersey town house complex was fined more than $100,000 for safety violations at two other New Jersey sites in the past year.

As WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported, records provided by the Occupation Safety and Health Administration show Blue Bell, Pa.-based Henkels & McCoy was fined $70,000 for safety violations at a work site in Bayonne and $42,000 for violations in Neptune.

The fines seemingly contradict statements on the company’s website, which says Henkels & McCoy’s goal is to be “the safest contractor in the markets we serve” and its daily mission is “nobody gets hurt.” The company is contesting the fines.

Linda Ceritelli, 62, an officer coordinator for Johnson & Johnson who decided to work from home Tuesday, was killed in the explosion just off Interstate 95 at 28 Crockett Lane in the South Fork housing community. Her body was found on a car outside her condo four hours after the blast. Seven others — all PSE&G workers — were injured.

Ewing Mayor Bert Steinmann said the gas line that was damaged by Henkels & McCoy, a private contractor for PSE&G, was clearly marked.

“They drilled,” Steinmann told reporters Wednesday. “I don’t know what went wrong. And that’s what the investigation is going to determine.”

A spokesman at Henkels & McCoy said it will cooperate fully with the investigation, adding that the company is “deeply saddened at the loss of life.”

Henkels & McCoy was replacing electric service to a house that was leveled in the blast, PSE&G had said. Though the damage to the pipeline caused a gas leak, the pipeline itself did not explode, the utility said.

Mike Gaffney, PSE&G’s director of gas distribution, defended Henkels & McCoy on Wednesday.

“Henkels & McCoy has had a long, successful history of supporting PSE&G construction work, and their OSHA rates have been historically acceptable,” he said.

A day after the explosion, 20 or more homes at the development remained uninhabitable. Authorities have said at least 55 units at the development received some kind of damage.

The development remained littered Wednesday with shingles and plywood and clumps of insulation were clustered in trees.

“It’s obviously devastating,” Ewing Police Lt. Ron Lunetta said Wednesday. “Obviously something I’ve never seen before as long as I’ve ever been with the department.”

Steinmann said residents of the homes deemed uninhabitable would be allowed to return to retrieve medicines and other belongings.

Some of the displaced were being sheltered at a fire house, while others were staying with family and friends. The town has established a fund to help affected residents.

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